Help! The World is on My Shoulders

Title: Help! The World is on My Shoulders

Bible Book: Exodus 18 : 14-21

Author: Calvin Wittman

Subject: Worry; Hardship; Trouble



At the website, Workaholics anonymous, there is an interesting series of diagnostic questions given, to help people determine whether or not they are workaholics. If you answer "yes" to three or more of these questions you may be a workaholic.1

1) Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else?

2) Are there times when you can charge through your work and other times when you can't?

3) Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?

4) Is work the activity you like to do best and talk about most?

5) Do you work more than 40 hours a week?

6) Do you turn your hobbies into money-making ventures?

7) Do you take complete responsibility for the outcome of your work efforts?

8) Have your family or friends given up expecting you on time?

9) Do you take on extra work because you are concerned that it won't otherwise get done?

10) Do you underestimate how long a project will take and then rush to complete it?

11) Do you believe that it is okay to work long hours if you love what you are doing?

12) Do you get impatient with people who have other priorities besides work?

13) Are you afraid that if you don't work hard you will lose your job or be a failure?

14) Is the future a constant worry for you even when things are going very well?

15) Do you do things energetically and competitively including play?

16) Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?

17) Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?

18) Do you think about your work while driving, falling asleep or when others are talking?

19) Do you work or read during meals?

20) Do you believe that more money will solve the other problems in your life?

Our passage today deals with this issue of being a workaholic, of thinking that you’ve got to do it all and placing yourself and others at risk because, for whatever reason, you are unwilling to turn things over to others.

The first part of chapter 18 finds Moses in a family reunion of sorts. Jethro, his father-in-law, catches up with the caravan of Israelites at Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. He is bringing with him Zipporah, Moses’ wife and their two sons. After a brief update on the mighty work of God and how He delivered the Israelites, Jethro offers a sacrifice to the Lord and worships.

The next day, as the people begin the activities of their day, Jethro takes note of the actions of Moses. Moses is seated in judgment, and all around him stand throngs of people, waiting to have Moses adjudicate their cases. Many are there from morning till evening, waiting to get a chance to make their case before Moses. Among a group of more than a million people, there were, no doubt, a variety of grievances. Someone took another person’s sheep, so and so borrowed some tools and never gave them back, someone else could have been accusing his neighbor of violating his daughter, and the list certainly went on and on.

As Jethro looks on, his heart is troubled. He recognizes that while Moses may be doing the right thing, he is doing it the wrong way. We pick up the dialogue in verses 14-18 (read)

In verse 17, Jethro tells Moses, “What you are doing is not good.” In Hebrew, the concept of goodness, which this word carries with it, is the idea of that which fulfills one’s expectations, that which is pleasing or beneficial. Jethro uses the word for good, with a prefix of negation, literally meaning that what Moses is doing is “Not good.” He is telling Moses that what he is doing will not fulfill his expectations. In the long run it will not be pleasing and it will not be beneficial to him or to the people.

The problem was that Moses was a workaholic. He was caught in the trap of thinking that if he didn’t do it, it couldn’t or wouldn’t get done. And instead of looking around for others to help him, Moses took it all on himself. The result was that both he and his people were suffering.

He goes on in the next verse to tell Moses that his course of action will result in him and the people wearing themselves out and that, in the end, Moses will not be able to do it alone. Interestingly, the word translated, “Wear out,” literally means, “to wither or to be futile.” There is a secondary meaning to this word, it is found in Proverbs 30:32, where it is translated, ‘To act foolishly.” It is connected with pride, specifically the kind of pride that exalts oneself. In other words, he is saying, “Moses, don’t be prideful or foolish. If you keep doing this all by yourself, your efforts will become futile and like grass you will dry up and wither away.”

What a picture of so many people I know. Men and women who are always so busy that they never have time to do the things in life that count. Their families suffer, their health suffers, their employees feel the strain, and all because their opinion of themselves is such that they think they are the only ones who can do it; they simply can’t find anyone smart enough or trustworthy enough to help them. Moses was headed toward burnout, but God, in His grace sends Jethro along to counsel him. It is interesting how God sends others along side of us, to us to counsel us. That’s what Jethro does.

In verses 19-23, he goes on to give him some salient counsel concerning his responsibilities as the leader of the Israelites. He advises Moses to appoint tribal leaders at various levels to help him judge the people.

There are three major things I want to show you from this text, and within each of them there are several other important things to note.

There are some things only you can do, there are some things others can do for you and there are some things only God can do. Wisdom is found not only in being able to recognize these things, but also in the ability to work with others, trust them to do their part, and trust God to do His part.

Let’s unpack this for a moment.

Notice three things: First of all, notice that ….

I. Personal Priority

There are some things only you can do.

Moses was a prophet and a priest to the people of God. Verse 19 tells us that even Jethro realized that this was a responsibility that Moses himself had to perform.

God had appointed and anointed him as a prophet to the people and he alone could fulfill this role. The problem was that Moses could not distinguish between his individual responsibility and what could be delegated.

One of the challenges we all face is in knowing what we and we alone can do and what it is we can give to others to do. The fact of the matter is, most people never really sit down and think about it, they just react when there are things to be done, and over time, they end up taking on a host of responsibilities that someone else could be doing. When this happens, the one thing that they alone can do, usually suffers.

Take Moses for example. As the prophet/priest to Israel, his primary role, according to verse 19, was to go before God on behalf of the people. But instead of spending time with God; instead of primarily being involved in intercession, he allowed himself to be caught up in lesser things; things that took his time and energy; things that would ultimately keep him from going to God for the people.

A similar situation occurs in Acts chapter six where there is a dispute among the Christians concerning the distribution of bread to the widows. Wisely, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the apostles direct the people to appoint servants, or deacons, to do the physical work of ministry, so that they could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.

In your life and mine the good is ever the enemy of the best. Only when you find out what God has uniquely called and gifted you to do, only when you understand your God-given purpose and calling can you begin to clear your life and schedule of ancillary and secondary things.

This is relevant to every area of our lives. It speaks to our family lives, to our ministries through the local church and to our work lives. Understanding this will make us more useful to God and to those around us.

While Moses was to do that which only he could do, there were some things he could train others to do; there were responsibilities he could delegate. This is the second thing I want you consider this morning.

II. Shared Responsibility

There are some things others can do for you.

Verses 20 and 21 give us insight in to how to delegate responsibility. He begins in verse 20 speaking about teaching the people what they should know….this is discipleship.

A. Discipleship

1. Teach them the Word of God

“Teach them the Statues and the Laws” this is the word of God. There is no way to get around it: before you are prepared to know the will of God, to walk in the way of God, or to do the work of God, you’ve got to be well grounded in the word of God.

Psalm 19:7-9 tells us,

“The law of the Lord is blameless, reviving the soul;

The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;

The just decrees of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether”

Without a knowledge of God’s word, there was no way anyone would have been ready to act as a judge over God’s people Moses was to teach them God’s word. But secondly, he was to train them to walk in the way of God.

2. Train them to walk in the Way of God

Knowledge of the word of God is useless unless it finds practical application in the way we live our lives. Discipleship not only involves what you know, it demands that the way we live reflect what we believe.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”

Before people are ready to serve the Lord; before they can see to do the work of God, they need the word of God to light their path. Their walk must match their talk. There has to be a consonance between what they profess and what they practice. To this end I believe all biblical teaching should have a practical, applicable side to it. It is not enough to simply tell people what to believe, we must tell them how to put it into practice in their personal lives.

Moses was to teach them the word of God, to train them to walk in the way of God and he was to…

3. Task them with the Work of God

This means that he was to give them specific assignments, to task them with what it was they were supposed to do. Go through the scripture and you find God’s appointed and anointed leaders giving direction to God’s people, teaching them, training them and tasking them.

In the New Testament the pastor is called an overseer to this end: with wisdom and spiritual discernment he is to direct God’s people into God’s work.

Which brings us to the second thing that Jethro told Moses. Not only was He to implement discipleship, he was to exercise discernment.

In verse 21 Jethro says you’ve got to find the right people. This is...

B. Discernment

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word translated “look,” or “see,” in verse 21, literally means to perceive, as the result of insight or reflection. In other words, as Moses was looking for men to put into positions of responsibility he was not to look for men who he thought had potential, thinking that by giving them responsibility they would rise to the occasion. To the contrary, he was to look for men who had already proved their potential. They were to be men who had already demonstrated that their character and performance could be trusted.

There are times and places where putting a novice in a position, so as to give them a chance to prove themselves, is not only necessary, but is a wise move. How will people ever get experience if they are not given an opportunity? But the kinds of jobs Moses was looking to fill, leadership positions within the community of God, were not to be filled by the inexperienced or by novices. These jobs were too important and the consequences were too significant to entrust them to the unproven. So, as Moses looked for the right men to whom he could delegate responsibility, there were four criteria he was to look for; four marks of the right kind of man.

1. He was to be able

The word translated “able” speaks directly to competence. Moses was not to give a position to someone because he liked them, or because they were related to a friend, or because they were popular. He was to look for men who had a proven track record of competence. Some men have what it takes to lead, others don’t. Moses needed to find those who did.

2. He was to fear God

The fear of the Lord is a common thread we find running throughout scripture. Literally it means that the person understands who he is in light of knowing Who God is. This knowledge of the Holy brings with it humility and an ongoing sense of accountability to God. From this humility and sense of accountability flows obedience, honesty and loyalty to God. The person who was going to judge God’s people needed to be a person who feared God.

Scripture has much to say about the person who fears the Lord.

Malachi 3:16 says God will listen to those who fear Him. Psalm 34:8 says God protects those who fear Him, and Proverbs 1:7 tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. In other words, without the fear of the Lord, the person would not have God’s wisdom, God’s protection or God’s ear. The fear of the Lord was an essential ingredient.

3. He was to be a man of truth

The word translated truth, in the original language, speaks directly to integrity. It literally means that this man would be faithful, reliable and firm, unmoving in his conviction and commitment to truthfulness.

In the business world people are fond of saying that, “It’s not what you know but who you know that counts.” But with God, “It’s not who you know but who you are that counts.” With God integrity is everything.

But integrity not only counts with God, it counts everywhere. An article in the March 17, 2007 New York Times spoke clearly to the reality that even in the secular world, integrity counts. The report told the story of Marilee Jones, the dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Although she was well loved and highly successful, having received the institute’s highest honor for administrators, the M.I.T. Excellence Award, she was forced to resign last week because it came to light that 28 years ago, when she first applied for an entry level job, she lied about having an undergraduate degree. She may have been well liked, she may have been good at what she did, but there was a problem with her character. Nearly three decades ago she lied about her qualifications, and her lack of integrity caught up with her.

Moses was to look for men who were men of integrity, men of truth.

4. They were to be men who hated unjust gain

That is, they were not to use their positions for personal advancement or gain, but they were to exercise their assignments according to what God wanted.

It is amazing how God’s word continues to stand true, in spite of the millennia that have passed since it was written, irrespective of whether or not the world around us recognizes its veracity.

There was another article in the same issue of the New York Times. It concerned U.S. Army, Lt. Col. William H. Steele, a top commander at one of the Army’s main detention centers in Baghdad. Army officials have charged Col. Steele with aiding the enemy. Among other charges, Col. Steele has been accused of fraternizing with the daughter of a detainee for the last two years and of allowing suspected terrorists the unmonitored use of his cell phone. Additionally he has been accused of having an inappropriate relationship with an interpreter. Instead of doing his job with integrity, it seems Col. Steele sought to use his position for his personal advantage.

Moses was to look for men who would not use their God-given position for personal gain. To the contrary, he was to look for men who hated covetousness.

So, Moses was to look for his personal priority, that which he alone could do, then he was to seek men with whom he could share responsibility, and then he was to expect results. Look in verse 23.

III. Results – Everything has results

A better translation here might be, “If you do this, and God will direct you in this, you will be able to stand the strain and the people will have satisfaction.”

There are two things Jethro says will happen if Moses will take his counsel. And, the same is true for us. If we take this biblical counsel, God will be active and do things only He can do for us.

There are two levels of results here; three things that happen when you understand your personal priority and share the responsibilities. One is that you will be successful and the other is that the people for whom you are responsible will be satisfied.

1. You will be able to endure

You won’t wear yourself out. That is, you will have the time and energy to do that which only you can do and.

2. The people will have peace

The people over whom God has given you responsibility will be satisfied. They will not become frustrated because you are trying to do it all alone. They will get what they need from you and as a result they will go to their place in peace.

There are always results, aren’t there? Look at verses 24 through 27. Specifically, notice verse 24 that says, “So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said.”

This is one of the most significant verses in this entire chapter because it speaks to the heart and character of Moses. Here was Moses, the great leader of Israel whose staff had brought forth the mighty plagues of God, who stood and commanded the Red Sea to part and who had a uniquely intimate relationship with God. God regularly spoke to Moses in an audible voice. Moses was no lackey; he was a priest and a prophet. He was the leader of God’s people, and yet, when his father-in-law comes and gives him advice, Moses has the humility and the spiritual insight to discern that this is a word from God. He listened to godly counsel and he obeyed.

All the good advice in the world won’t do you and me a bit of good unless we are willing to listen and obey.

The principles of this biblical account not only relate to the market place, they relate to the spiritual realm as well. There are those who try to do it all by themselves, they try to be good enough to get to heaven, but they cannot. Their pride won’t allow them to admit they need help.

There are some things this morning that only you can do. One of them is the decision to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. No one can do that for you. No one can make you a Christian; it is something you have to accept for yourself. I wonder this morning if you have ever asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and to be the Lord of your life. If not, now would be the perfect time.

Maybe you are already a Christian but you’re trying to do it on your own; you’re trying to be the lone ranger. Friend, there are some things you need help with, and growing as a member of the body of Christ is something with which we help one another.

Maybe you’re here this morning and you’re a workaholic. You’re so busy that your wife and your children have paid the price. You’re stressed out beyond belief. You’re doctor’s told you to slow down, your friends have counseled you to ease up, but you just won’t do it. This morning God is giving you advice from His word. He is showing you a way to live and work that will enable you to endure. Will you ignore His advice, and why? Why would you ignore the wise counsel of God today?


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